Behind the Curtain of ‘Oz’: Dallas’ AMS Pictures Explores 85 Questions for the Film’s 85th Anniversary

"Mysteries of Oz: 85 Questions Answered" promises to reveal "newly discovered truths," debunk age-old myths, and dispel misconceptions about the 1939 motion classic "The Wizard of Oz"—which the Library of Congress calls the most-watched movie ever.

Who was supposed to play Dorothy? How much money did Toto earn? Why would Dorothy miss the Scarecrow most of all? Was “Over the Rainbow” plagiarized? And was it really all just a dream?

Those are just some of the questions explored in the new documentary series “Mysteries of Oz: 85 Questions Answered,” produced by Dallas-based AMS Pictures—which has a 40-plus-year history of creating content for networks like Lifetime, Reelz, History, and HGTV.

The three-part series promises to reveal “newly discovered truths,” debunk age-old myths, and dispel misconceptions about the 1939 motion classic “The Wizard of Oz,” which the Library of Congress calls the most-watched movie ever.

A shot from “Mysteries of Oz: 85 Questions Answered.” [Image via the trailer from AMS Pictures]

Timed for the 85th anniversary of the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz,” the series celebrates the 1939 film by highlighting its impact on diverse audiences, with a special focus on its powerful place in the hearts and culture of the LGBTQ+ community. 

The  doc series will look at how “The Wizard of Oz” and its legendary star, Judy Garland, “resonate with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds,” while also showing how it led to Oz adaptations like “The Wiz” and “Wicked,” bringing new interpretations to new generations over the years.

Currently in production, the series is slated to be available for distribution in late 2024.

A scene from “Mysteries of Oz: 85 Questions Answered.” [Credit: AMS Pictures]

Writer’s been fascinated since childhood

Randy Schmidt, the writer-producer of “Mysteries of Oz,” said he’s “always been captivated by the myriad mysteries and myths that surround the making of this beloved film.”

Randy Schmidt

Schmidt, who teaches music in Denton, is the author of the bestselling biography Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter and the editor of Judy Garland on Judy Garland: Interviews and Encounters and Yesterday Once More: The Carpenters Reader. He’s also contributed articles to The Advocate and The Observer.

“Growing up, I eagerly awaited the annual telecast of the movie, a cherished tradition that fueled my fascination with the magical land of Oz,” he added in a statement. “But my passion extended beyond the screen, and I became a card-carrying member of the International Wizard of Oz Club as a kid, immersing myself in the community of fellow enthusiasts. I even convinced my parents to take me to various conventions and festivals dedicated to Oz.”

From exploring the “mysterious casting decisions” to revealing the truth behind legendary—or perhaps mythological—on-set incidents, Schmidt says the series “leaves no stone unturned.”

Helming the series is Brad Osborne, whose other directing credits include “M*A*S*H: When Television Changed Forever,” “Tom Petty: Won’t Back Down,” and the series “The Price of Fame.” “To this day, I simply cannot take my eyes off the movie,” Osborne says. “It’s a spectacle of creativity, wonder, and magic that has simply never been matched in cinema.”

Nichelle Lewis, who played Dorothy in the 2024 Broadway revival of “The Wiz,” is one of the people interviewed in the “Mysteries of Oz.” [Image via trailer from AMS Pictures]

The truth is ‘fascinating’

“It’s fascinating when you get to the heart of it, to the truth,” William Stillman, who with Jay Scarfone co-authored The Road to Oz: The Evolution, Creation, and Legacy of a Motion Picture Masterpiece, said in a statement.

Stillman and Scarfone are the foremost authorities on the making of “The Wizard of Oz.” In the doc series, they offer a historical perspective that includes “insight that the layperson looking at clickbait online might not be privy to.”

A message of belonging and acceptance

A scene from “Mysteries of Oz: 85 Questions Answered.” [Credit: AMS Pictures]

One of the many people interviewed for “Mysteries of Oz” is “drag queen superstar” Ginger Minj (above), who explains why Judy Garland became such a gay icon.

“We love someone who bears the weight of the world and remains fabulous despite it all,” Minj says in the series. “Many of us relate to her because we’ve been told we’re too fat, not pretty enough, or don’t sing well enough. Any criticism imaginable was thrown at this young lady, yet she still became a shining star.”

Nichelle Lewis, who played Dorothy in the 2024 Broadway revival of “The Wiz,” recalls her astonishment at being cast in the iconic role.

“I couldn’t believe it when they called to tell me I would be playing Dorothy,” she says in the series, adding, “We want little kids who see this show to feel proud of who they are and where they come from.”

The doc series aims to take audiences “over the rainbow and down the yellow brick road,” answering 85 questions about the film with the help of a long list of interviewees and experts. Over two dozen on-camera subjects range from experts like Scarfone and Stillman to Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

“I wonder if some of the thirst for discovering what goes on behind the scenes stems from knowing that nothing is truly that brightly colored,” Maguire says in the series. “And if it is that brightly colored, it’s false.”

While “Mysteries of Oz” is still in production, you can see a trailer for it by going here

Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.

Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.

One quick signup, and you’re done.  

R E A D   N E X T

  • Moviegoers in Dallas-Fort Worth have had their cinema-loving dreams dashed—and raised again—in the space of a week. First came word that Angelika Film Center & Cafe Plano was closing, followed by news that the franchise group running five Dallas-Fort Worth Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas had closed them down and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The raised hopes? That came Wednesday, when Sony Pictures Entertainment rocked Hollywood by announcing it had acquired Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and its 35 locations in 25 metro areas, as well as its much-loved Fantastic Fest film festival.